While historically, there have been disparate opportunities for women filmmakers, women behind the camera have received a much-deserved rise in the 2020s with many mainstream and critically acclaimed films bearing more female crew members than before. Many popular films in the past few years have been women-directed, platforming unique stories to reach world audiences and also significantly impacting on-screen representation.
In the last year alone, some of the most popular and impactful films have been women-directed. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie was one of the most-watched films of the year and also the highest-grossing, making over a billion dollars in global box-office revenue. Past Lives by Celine Song stole, broke & mended hearts at film festivals & theatres and bagged several ‘Best Film’ wins across the awards circuit. The intense courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall secured Justine Triet a rightful ‘Best Director’ Oscar nomination. The three films have also been nominated for ‘Best Picture‘ at the Oscars.
The 2020s have also had many more great films that introduced the world to remarkable and promising women filmmakers on the rise. Ranging across the board in terms of genre, scale, and narrative, here are some directors you should check out!
1. Kamila Andini
The Indonesian filmmaker who released her debut feature The Mirror Never Lies a decade ago has received international attention in the past few years. Her storytelling is gentle, sensitive, and deeply human. Her films address diverse issues ranging from ecological concerns to child marriage. Andini’s most recent film Before, Now & Then (2022) is a captivating period drama inspired by the life of Raden Nana Sunani, a West Javanese woman.
Andini’s previous release Yuni (2021) is a stand coming-of-age drama that approached the genre with incredible depth & nuance. In a Q&A for the film, she said that her approach with her films is to show “the good & the bad” to maintain realism that resonates with people.
2. Alice Diop
Primarily a documentarian, Alice Diop released her first narrative feature Saint Omer in 2022. Her documentaries are set in the lesser-represented regions of France focusing on representing the marginal. Her attentive filmmaking translates wonderfully into the narrative form in Saint Omer, a legal drama based on a real trial.
Diop manages to carry out the complex bending of reality into fiction artfully in all its intensity, humanity & uniqueness. The film won several jury awards and was even selected as France’s pick for Best International Feature.
3. Molly Manning Walker
British Filmmaker Molly Manning Walker released her debut feature How to Have Sex at Cannes in 2023 and won the Un Certain Regard prize. As a cinematographer, Walker has shot several short films, including video shorts for acclaimed musicians like A$AP Rocky, 645AR, FKA Twigs & Tom Walker, since 2021.
As the writer-director of How to Have Sex, she has helped create a dialogue on sexual assault and the uncomfortable underbelly of the female coming-of-age story. Drawing from her own life, she provides an honest, authentic, relatable take on the gendered experience of being a teenager, with the intention of reshaping misrepresented narratives of the same.
4. Yngvild Sve Flikke
Norweigan film & television screenwriter-director Yngvild Sve Flikke is a refreshing presence in the dramedy world. After her debut feature Women in Oversized Men’s Shirts (2015), she returned with Ninjababy, a hilarious and touching adaptation of Inga Sætre’s graphic novel ‘Fallteknikk’ (‘The Art of Falling’) in 2021.
Flikke’s work flips rom-com archetypes on their head by approaching typically depicted scenarios with a distinct sense of cynicism and humour. Her bright & wonderfully awkward style enables a palatable yet offbeat acknowledgement of what might otherwise be considered serious about life.
5. Noora Niasari
First-time filmmaker Noora Niasari wrote, directed & produced ‘Shayda’ an almost autobiographical film about the turbulence & interculturality of being an Iranian refugee in Australia. Based on Niasari’s mother’s memoir, ‘Shayda,’ is a story of uncompromised authenticity comparable to classic Iranian New Wave Cinema.
Being released in the midst of the ongoing women’s movement in Iran, she masterfully balances representing the personal politically while also celebrating her culture and portraying the nuance of her multicultural existence.
6. Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy
Actor-turned-director Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy made her directorial debut with ‘Aachar & Co.’ a lighthearted family dramedy, in 2023. Her film had a predominantly female crew and was one of the few woman-directed Indian films released that year. Murthy herself juggled between directing, co-writing, producing, and starring in the film.
The film is set in 1960s Bangalore and revolves around a dysfunctional family of 10 siblings. She describes the world of ‘Aachar & Co.’ as an alternate reality of our history where even the men are feminists and wishes that fact to cement itself into our reality. Murthy is now working on her next film ‘13 Days.’
7. Ariane Louis-Seize
Ariane Louis-Seize is an eccentric and distinctive Canadian director. After making a string of critically acclaimed short films, she premiered her debut feature ‘Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,’ last year which brings a strangeness to the comfortable.
She co-wrote the film alongside Christine Doyon. Her work merges divergent genres. It is inventive and fun without trying too hard to be. In an interview from 2023, she says that she aims to balance comfort and discomfort while confronting anxieties to surprise and challenge audiences.
This is by no means an exhaustive or representative list. Suggestions to add to this list are welcome in the comments section.